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Dairy Focus: What’s In Your Ration?

J.W. Schroeder, NDSU Extension Service dairy cattle specialist J.W. Schroeder, NDSU Extension Service dairy cattle specialist
Feed bunk management is an important part of controlling feed costs.

By J.W. Schroeder, Dairy Specialist NDSU Extension Service

Editor’s note: This is the third article in a series on the impact of the growing ethanol industry and rising feed and fuel prices on the region’s dairy farmers.

Feed bunk management is a big part of controlling feed costs.

The total mixed ration (TMR) technique has helped dairy farmers achieve record milk production levels. But despite the science that goes into nutrition, the art of nutrition is equally important.

With feeding systems, the TMR approach is estimated to be used by more than 45 percent of today’s dairies. But just mixing the feed is not enough. In reality, you have four rations, at least from the cow’s perspective. They are:

  • Ration 1: the ration that has been formulated on paper. You and your nutritionist attempt to get the right ingredients to the right cows.
  • Ration 2: the ration mixed on the farm. Is your feeder accurately weighing and combining the ingredients indicated in No. 1 above? Are the feeds in the yard the same as the feeds on paper?
  • Ration 3: the ration consumed by the cow. Was this filling? How does the dry matter compare? Have you communicated this to your nutritionist?
  • Ration 4: the ration fermented in the rumen and digested by the cow. Fermentation and digestion are affected by all three of the above rations and the quality of the feed in the yard.

When facing the challenge of high feed costs, don’t make uninformed decisions. Instead, evaluate your management factors, and don’t forget to see the feed bunk through your cow’s eyes.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:J.W. Schroeder, (701) 231-7663,
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391,
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